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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to JOHN NORTON POMEROY, dated February 22, 1870.

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Title: Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to JOHN NORTON POMEROY, dated February 22, 1870.


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882


  • Pomeroy, John Norton

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter

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Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to JOHN NORTON POMEROY, dated February 22, 1870., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed December 15, 2017)

Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to JOHN NORTON POMEROY, dated February 22, 1870.

Transcribed by :

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Florence February 22 1870

Dear Mr Pomeroy

I received yours of the in due season, and hoped to have made you an earlier reply, but at this time of the year, the calls upon my leisure are so many that [it] is a hard matter for me to do anything when it ought to be done. I don't see why your report, which seems to me a reasonable and proper one, should have excited so much feeling, but I cannot say I am exactly sorry for this result, because I think it probable we shall be able to secure a more satisfactory work than now at the disposal of the legislature.

I have proposed the subject to Powers, who is interested in the object, but whose very numerous engagements do not permit him to undertake the work, at this time, and besides, the actual execution of a model by his own hands would, if gratuitous, be a larger contribution than we have a right to expect from an individual, and, if paid for, as the works of artists of such high reputation usually are, would more than consume all the sources we have or can hope for.

Mr. Powers has now studying under him a son, of promising talent as a sculptor, who would be very glad to un- -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- dertake the design and execution of a model in plaster, if a reasonable time can be allowed for that purpose. The model itself, as in the case of those prepared by Mr Powers, senior, would be of ordinary life size, which would save risk of injury as well as cost of freight, and by rules perfectly easy of application, could be enlarged by the cutter to any size required.

The model--and here is the point which with me is decisive--would be executed under Mr Hiram Powers's eye and with his constant advice, and therefore, though it might not be strictly his own conception, yet it would have the full benefit of his artistic criticism, and would be, if not his work, yet a work which would bear the stamp of his genius, and be scarcely less valuable as a work of art, than if finished in his name and on his personal responsibility. Mr Powers is rapid in portraiture, but leisurely and cautious in composition, and he would not be willing that a statue, designed under his auspices, should be anything but the product of mature refection and the most conscientious execution.

For these reasons, both father and son think that a period of two years is not too long for such an undertaking, -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- and the price for the model, securely packed and delivered at the Railway station here, would be one thousand dollars in gold.

As to the material, I think granite--at least Vermont granite--objectionable because, as may be seen by the triglyphs & other architectural decorations of the capital, it has no light & shade, and because I have no faith in its standing our climate. The lower segment of the colums of the capital at Montpelier, where it was exposed to the splashing of rain, scaled off to the thickness of a tenth of an inch, in the course of ten years, and the fine work about a statue would certainly soon be impaired and disfigured by the weather in such a very exposed situation in our Siberian climate.

Mr Powers has made many ingenious suggestions about the mode of execution. For instance, as the figure could never be seen from above, many parts, which if it were to [be] placed at the level of the eye, must be hollowed out, might be left solid and thus both strengthen the figure & secure it against injury by weather Again, he says every fold of drapery, every limb & feature, should be so arranged as to hold no water to corrode or discolor the stone or break it by freezing, but on the contrary -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- should present a surface from which the rainwater & snow will drop off as fast as they fall on.

In fact, though Mr Powers promises only what I have said above, I am sure from the interest he feels in the subject and in his son's success, as well as from his habit of insisting on perfection in the execution of everything undertaken by persons under his influence, that we shall get something not inferior to any work of our times, of this class.

I am, therefore, clearly in favor of closing with this proposal, and I am sure if you could spend an hour in Mr Powers's studio, you would come to the same conclusion. Mr Powers, I should have said above, is decidedly in favor of marble, both as being a more durable material than granite, under such an exposure, and as admitting a thoroughness of execution not attainable in granite. This question, however, need not be determined now, & in the mean time may be further considered.

I should hope, with this prospect, money enough might be raised to pay all additional expenses in the course of the two years.

I am much obliged to you for your suggestion of a remedy for neuralgia, -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- and though in this climate, the article you recommend is not, in general, a safe beverage, I shall very likely try it.

Mr Powers has lately finished a bust of Longfellow, of which I will send you a photograph as soon as they are printed. It is at once a most exact likeness, and a magnificent work of art. Longellow's head is very fine, but the bust is more Homeric than L's habitual expression, as P. caught him in his happiest moments.

We had a very pleasant journey with H. Loomis from Paris to Florence last November. He is a truly noble man, and seems to me to lack none of his father's admirable qualities, and to have added new ones to them.

Your Mr Ware preached for us--very acceptably to use the technical term--last Sunday. We have here what we call a Union church, composed of Episcopalians, Trinitarians & Unitarians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Reformed Dutch, & other sects. We invite, indiscriminately, clergyman of all these denominations, and thus we are realising Broad church principles in actual practice. The plan works charmingly.

I wish I could send the college -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- something, but life here costs the last cent of my income more I am afraid, and the demands upon the charity of persons in our position are pressing, to an extent hardly conceivable to one who has not long lived in an impoverished country. I have always hoped & still hope that my books will one day go to the University of Vermont, but I not only have now no surplus, but must practice a very strict economy during the coming season to make up the deficit which the winter never fails to occasion in my balance sheet.

Mrs Marsh landed in better health than she has enjoyed for many years, but the inconvenience of railway travel for invalids in Europe, & the burden of social duties here have put her back to about her former condition. I put confidential at the head of this, not because there is anything secret, but because I would rather not have a mere conversation with P., printed. Powers is a most strict observer of his word, and will do more than he promises, but as I do not pretend to use his own words, it is possible that my report of -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- them may be misinterpreted. I ought however to say to you, that I have read over the first sheet of this letter to Powers (senior) himself & that he gives his full assent to what I have said.

If this strikes you favourably, please let me know the size of the abacus (square stone on the top) and the total height of the column from the ground, in order that the form & dimensions of the pedestal, or other necessary elevation about the surface of the abacus, may be considered --

Although P. does not like to bind himself to less than two years, I think the work will, in all probability, be ready sooner. Please present to Mrs Pomeroy & accept for yourself my own & Mrs Marsh's kindest regards

Yours truly

Geo P Marsh note:Hon J N. Pomeroy

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